It is a startling statistic: one out of every 10 students would leave public school for an alternative manner of education, given the chance.

That’s according to the Alabama Education Association (AEA).

At least, that’s what it sounded like to me.

AEA officials are terrified of a bill that has been introduced in the Alabama legislature that would allow parents to use somewhere between $5,000 and $6,500 (the number varies, depending on who you talk to) to enable them to afford a better school choice for their children.

The AEA’s Amy Marlowe said, in a statement released by the AEA, that this bill would result in more than $420 million "hit" coming out of the Education Trust Fund. (Some within the educational industrial complex are warning that figure could be even higher).

What I am hearing the AEA say is that if each child is eligible to take $6,000 to use to find a different school option, and the AEA says it will cost the Education Trust Fund $420 million, then upon this bill becoming law the AEA expects some 70,000 students to immediately pull out of their public schools and look for another option. (That’s 70,000 students taking $6,000 each, which – if my public school math is correct – equals $420 million).

That, to me, sounds like at least 70,000 students - and, more importantly, their families - feel like they are being held hostage in public schools that are not meeting the basic needs of the children.

According to a quick search, there are about 725,000 students enrolled in Alabama public schools, K-12. So the state educational industrial complex believes that roughly one out of every 10 students (again, and their families) are so unhappy with their current school situation that, given the chance and financial wherewithal, they are ready to pull their kids from public school and look for a better option.

I recognize simple math like that is, well, simple. And there is obviously nothing simple about Alabama’s education disaster (to simply call it a “problem’’ is like saying Hurricane Katrina was simply an “unfortunate weather event”). 

Still - thank you, AEA, for pointing out what parents in this state have been saying for a long, long time.

And if we can’t count on our public school systems and state legislators to fix this education tsunami, then at least give parents the chance to use their own tax dollars to find a solution on their own.

Don’t expect it to happen, though.

An amendment has been attached to the Parent Choice Act that would require students who utilize this option to have their academic progress measured by public school standardized testing. This, in essence, gives the Alabama Board of Education a say in private and homeschool curriculum, which the parents who choose alternative options would never stand for. That amendment, offered by the state Board, may sound fine, but it means having to teach to the state’s standard rather than to whatever standard parents may choose for their children.

In fact, one member of the legislature said if the bill, authored by Senator Del Marsh, does come to the floor for a vote, he is afraid Marsh will be embarrassed. And truthfully, Marsh didn’t sound very optimistic Wednesday either, saying it appeared he only had 21 of the 27 votes he would need to get this bill passed by the Senate.

State Representative Charlotte Meadows is bringing the companion bill to the House, but that is looking like an even longer shot.

Plus, there is the education lobby fighting hard to oppose it. The Alabama Association of School Boards warned its members that a “fiscal cliff” was looming (despite budget increase after budget increase and a full reserve fund) for education, and to contact their state representatives to express their concern about this bill.

But then, one Republican senator told me, “I don’t care about the AEA. But I do listen to the (school) superintendents and principals in my area.”

Who are probably members of the AEA, but that’s just getting picky.

Kind of like pointing out that this senator – like so many others - received a $10,000 donation from the education lobby.

And it might be worth pointing out that there are a lot of private schools and homeschool parents in that district too; parents who might know how to use that portion of their tax dollars better than the folks in Montgomery.

But they don’t lobby like the education industry.

And that's a story for another day.

Ray Melick is Editor-in-Chief of 1819 News. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to